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16 Africans shortlisted for 2021 Africa Prize for Engineering Innovation

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A low-cost water-powered ventilator, dissolvable bio plastic and 3D printed prosthetics are among the innovations chosen to receive crucial commercialisation support from the Royal Academy of Engineering after being shortlisted for its 2021 Africa Prize for Engineering Innovation.

The Africa Prize recognises ambitious African innovators developing scalable engineering solutions to local challenges and this year’s shortlist represents nine countries including, for the first time, Côte d’Ivoire, Senegal, Ethiopia and the Gambia. Six of the 16-strong shortlist are female innovators.

Launched by the Royal Academy of Engineering in 2014, each year the Africa Prize programme provides a unique business support package to innovators who are transforming their communities.

The Africa Prize has a track record of identifying engineering entrepreneurs with significant potential, many of whom have gone on to achieve greater commercial success and social impact.

Top row L-R: Taofeek Olalekan, Marie Ndieguene, Tshepo Mangoele, Juka Fatou Darboe Bottom row L-R: Noel N’guessan, Olugbenga Olufemi Olubanjo, Indira Tsengiwe, Pazion Cherinet

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The benefits of shortlist selection include eight months of comprehensive and tailored business training, bespoke engineering mentoring, media and communications training, funding and access to the Academy’s network of high-profile, experienced engineers and business experts in the UK and across Africa.

This year marks the first fully digital programme, providing intensive expert guidance and community support through a mixture of online group and one-on-one sessions.

Emma Wade Smith OBE, Her Majesty’s Trade Commissioner for Africa at the UK Department for International Trade, said: “It makes me very proud to be part of this initiative that demonstrates so clearly and practically the power of partnerships between Africa and the UK.

The range of innovations and innovators in this year’s shortlist offer an insight into Africa’s extraordinary diversity and talent and illustrates the importance we all place on nurturing and supporting Africa’s self-starters to create and scale sustainable and inclusive products and services that will help us rebuild our economies to be greener, cleaner and more resilient.

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“The Africa Prize helps to accelerate entrepreneurial capacity and ecosystems. I am excited to follow the progress of this year’s cohort, and am certain we will see many of these inventions go on to create and sustain jobs and benefit our societies, as so many of the previous participants in the Africa Prize have done.”

Alumni of the Prize are projected to impact over three million lives in the next five years and have already created over 1500 jobs and raised more than $14 million in grants and equity.

Four finalists will be selected from the shortlist in June and invited to pitch their improved innovation and business plan to the judges and a live audience. A winner will be selected in July to receive £25,000, and three runners up will receive £10,000 each.

The Africa Prize supports innovators developing life-changing technologies that may otherwise have gone unrecognised and under-resourced. Unlike conventional grants or accelerators, the Africa Prize does not dictate the types of innovation that are eligible. Instead, its focus is on the socio-economic impact of the overall business.

The Prize provides tailored support to entrepreneurs specifically seeking to address challenges identified in their own communities. Africa Prize alumni include engineers tackling issues as diverse as safe transport, financial service accessibility, agricultural resilience and the healthcare system.

Africa Prize alumni have also played an important role in supporting the continent’s COVID-19 pandemic response, with the programme’s training and additional Academy funding helping them pivot their businesses and address community needs.

Together, they reached over 220,000 people with innovations including affordable hand sanitiser, remote education, 3D-printed PPE, access to finance for smallholder farmers and a track and trace platform allowing worshippers to attend religious services.

The 2021 shortlist includes innovations that provide solutions for pressing challenges in essential sectors addressing most of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.

This year’s shortlist includes companies that are improving recruitment opportunities in the media and software development sectors through digital platforms, reducing agricultural waste by transforming it into products ranging from packaging to a plastic substitute, and using artificial intelligence to improve healthcare therapies.

The shortlisted technologies and candidates are:

Ghanaian becomes first woman to win Africa engineering prize

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